Most people agree that adulthood begins at 18 years. This means you are old enough to make responsible decisions about working, voting, drinking, driving and sex. Many countries prohibit sex with under-16s, but in some places the age of consent is as low as 11 (Nigeria), or as high as 20. The age of sexual consent in the Philippines is 12 years old, the lowest in Asia and the second lowest in the world.
It is the job of policymakers to understand how national legislation can impact human trafficking and feed demand for exploitation. It is not enough to protect children through legislation. We must also give them the human right to be children. In a recent CNN article, Under Philippine law, 12-year-olds can consent to sex. Activists are trying to change that, journalist Jessica Yeung reported on current legislative efforts to raise the consent age to 16-years-old. I agree with her comment, “Raising the age is just one step — the bill includes a raft of other provisions to strengthen enforcement, improve the investigation and legal process, and provide more support and confidentiality for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.” Read her article to better understand the history, culture and proposed legislation.
The Vicious Cycle of Poverty
Filipino children face severe challenges due to poverty, neglect and right-abusing government polices. The Borgen Project reports that The Philippines has a fairly high poverty rate with more than 16% of the population living below the poverty line. Approximately 17.6 million Filipinos struggle to afford basic necessities. In February 2021, the Philippine Commission on Population and Development reported that pregnancies among minors aged 10-14 was up by 7 percent in 2019 compared to 2018. This resulted in 62,510 recorded births. In essence, this means that abuse and alleged “consent” exacerbates an already critical economic situation. Child consent can be linked to a vicious cycle of human trafficking.
The U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons report 2021 stated,”Traffickers are often parents or close relatives who operate in private residences or small cyber cafes and many child victims, girls and boys, are younger than 12 years. Reports cited a nearly 265 percent increase in unconfirmed reports of online child sexual abuse during the pandemic. Economic impacts of the pandemic, combined with an increased amount of time children spent at home, resulted in an increasing number of families to force their children into online sexual exploitation.”
You may read this and think to yourself, “What a pity, I feel helpless.” Helpless never solved an issue. I encourage you to be an advocate for children’r rights in a way that best suits you. There are many options to donate, volunteer time, and campaign. I first became aware of child sex abuse in the Philippines in 2012, through a friend from Negros who began SPOSA CHILD Foundation. This organisation rehabilitates and heals sexually abused girls through the power of education. Over the last nine years, I have seen the personal and social impact on girls younger than 12 who have been raped. I have sponsored girls who took advantage of the educational sponsorship. I have also sponsored girls who ultimately were unable to accept change. Girls who slipped back in to the dark corners of sexual demand and poverty. I now sponsor a girl who wants to go to college to learn how to run a business. In her words, “I want to have a stable business someday. Then I can support my other siblings in their education and build a family house.”
Consider the words of Edward Everett Hale. “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Find the something that you can do to stop every aspect that leads to human trafficking.